HORRIBLE AND SAD, BUT LEGAL.
A pathetic individual who calls himself "Yeah" sent this photo to
Wildlife Watch. Do you want this demented Neanderthal in your woods,
around your wildlife?
Having attended one of the meetings held to "reintroduce" elk
to the Catskill region, I can say that the presentation is deceitful
on so many levels that it’s hard to count the ways.
A typical publication put out by the Elk Foundation is
titled: Elk Hunting Secrets: 239 Tips and Tactics. It’s clear
that this alleged "reintroduction" is simply another hunting
The agency that is being asked to make the decision is
the Bureau of Wildlife (BOW) of the DEC. BOW is in the hunting business.
Wildlife managers pay their salaries out of hunting license fees; and
their management projects are paid for from firearms, ammunition, and
bow and arrow excise taxes. Is it any wonder that they will do their
best to create more targets (living beings) for sport killing? BOW’s
goal is to generate increasing interest in hunting and create "hunting
opportunity." Their pretense at being a neutral department, not
having a vested interest in the outcome of the elk introduction, is
trickery. Far from basing decisions on "public demand" and "science," they
simply analyze the hunting revenue pros and cons. Should the introduction
of elk cut into the bread and butter deer hunting profits, it will be
nixed. If on the other hand it works to attract more people to the bloody
activity of hunting, and if there is no biological or environmental
conflict with white-tailed deer hunting, then it will pass. The only
public opinion they are responsive to is that of the hunters who represent
less than 4% of the population, despite the fact that wildlife legally
belongs to all the people of the state.
The proposal to start with a herd of 100 elk is deceptive,
as it surely will not end there. In 1976 Colorado elk numbered 98,000,
nine years later the population jumped to 135,000. Don’t forget that
hunters wiped out white-tailed deer not terribly long ago, and thanks
to BOW’s efforts at overpopulating white-tailed deer through hunting,
there is a population in NY that we are told is close to one million
and has to be heavily hunted.
Elk are quite different from white-tailed deer and their
unique ways may not always be compatible with developed surroundings.
Naturalist Hope Ryden was commissioned by National Geographic to study
coyotes in the wild. She lived in Yellowstone Park for two years. In
her book, God’s Dog, she describes a typical elk migration thusly: "Suddenly,
as I climbed a small rise, I thought I was witnessing elk resurrection
day. At least five thousand Cervus Canadensis [elk] had gathered in
the valley, and in the fading light I could see scores more streaming
down from surrounding slopes and feeding into the milling herd. Along
the periphery of this swirling mass, bulls were pacing. … It would have
been suicidal to try to walk through, along, or around this volatile
barrier of animals, whose primordial urge to be on the move was so evident.
Their tension was electric, and in such a mood the slightest disturbance
might spook them into a stampede. Some were already agitating to be
under way, their shrill whistles and loud barks evoking answering cries
from various parts of the herd. …Only a fool or a saint would have ventured
to walk through that teeming river of animals, which at any moment threatened
to flow swiftly in any direction."
In Restoring America’s Wildlife published by the
U.S. Department of Interior in praise of hunting and restoration, it
describes elk as migratory, gregarious animals, congregating in herds
of several thousand on the winter range. Unlike white-tailed deer, elk
move from summer range areas in high elevations to winter ranges at
lower elevations, and the migrations or stampedes can number in the
thousands of animals.
The Elk Foundation claimed elk wouldn’t compete with white-tailed
deer because they eat grasses, yet the Dept. of Interior said the food
habits of elk are extremely varied. They feed on a much wider variety
of plant material than white-tailed deer. The DOI wrote: "Throughout
their [elk] range they consume 142 species of herbs, ferns, and lichens;
77 species of grasses and grass-like species, and 111 species of shrubs
and trees. They thrive on shrubby browse plants." If you think
white-tailed deer are doing a good job on garden plantings, crops, and
endangered plants, wait till the elk get here with their voracious appetites.
The fact that they prefer grasses is an obvious competition with livestock,
causing severe human-elk conflicts out west where elk damage haystacks
Further, the rut period can be a dangerous time for elk
and people in the woods. A bull in rut will thrash trees and fighting
can lead to serious injury.
Just how is the forest to be managed for elk? Out west
it’s by "prescribed burns" where forests are deliberately
burned to create more diversity of plant life to benefit primarily hunted
species. We can expect that fire will play a greater role in management
of land for elk here also. This is a terrifying thought. One of the
worst forest fires in the west was caused by "fire management."
Elk weigh between 700-800 pounds on average; compare that
to deer that weigh from 75-120 lbs. There is no doubt that an elk –car
collision will result in a human fatality.
Finally, there is grave concern about Chronic Wasting
Disease (CWD) in elk. It is the wildlife equivalent of "mad cow
disease." The brain turns to Swiss cheese. CWD takes ten years
to manifest and there is no way to test for CWD in live animals, yet
the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is saying that this is a "clean" stock.
It was reported that several hunters have already died from the human
equivalent (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) after eating elk flesh.
The elk out west live in over 140 million acres of forest,
much of which is national forest and public land. There are only 250,000
acres in the Catskill Park area designated as "forever wild." While
the Catskill Park boasts 600,000 acres, much of it is developed with
restaurants, houses, resorts, and towns.
A good analogy to an elk introduction here would be a
tiger introduction into your home. If you think your little cat scratches
furniture, oy yoy yoy what you’re in for.
I feel that our organization is in a peculiar position
to have to advocate against the introduction of elk, but we do that
for the sake of the future of the species, the individual animals who
will ultimately suffer, and for the horrendous human-animal conflicts
that will undoubtedly occur in the not too distant future.
It’s sad for us to say that "No, there is no longer
any place for the elk in New York." If the elk scheme is not stopped
before it starts, there will be years of hell to pay in the future.
Please give us a break, give the elk a break, give the
farmers a break, and give the gardeners a break. For those who really
want to view elk and not shoot them, please visit them out west.